The Dinner

The Dinner - Herman Koch, Sam Garrett Herman Koch’s The Dinner, translated from the Dutch, is set in modern Amsterdam. Most of the novel’s action takes place over the course of an expensive dinner endured by two couples at an upscale restaurant. The narrator, Paul, begins by expressing his dread over the upcoming evening and alludes to his antipathy toward the other party. The reader is drawn into his thoughts, memories and apprehensions. Paul and his wife Claire are joined by his famous sibling and his wife. It is apparent that there is some long-standing resentment and tension between the four. Throughout the dinner, they seem to be building toward an unavoidable confrontation- one that keeps Paul searching for ways to postpone the reason for their gathering. The book tackles questions of wealth and privilege, fame and reputation in the face of potential scandal. It also addresses the issues of parental obligations and advocacy, and the lengths to which parents are willing to go to shield their children from the consequences of their actions. The reader is led to contemplate the point at which these self-serving goals begin to alienate people from each other and create inevitable competition even within families. Each section of The Dinner is titled after a course as it is served during the meal. The characters are extremely interesting and morally ambiguous, unlikeable in many ways- and perhaps too familiar. Despite the constrained timeline, the novel is psychologically deep and suspenseful. Koch has created a work that is timely, thought-provoking and ultimately disturbing. Readers who prefer dark thrillers that focus on character and larger ethical concerns would find the Dinner to be extremely satisfying.